My thoughts on the Chinese New Year

It’s the time of year when China has reached the start of the New Year. It does sound strange, but the times are so different in each country; for instance, when I went to Australia at the age of 12, the country was nine hours ahead of England and it was our summer vacation, despite it being winter in Aussie. There was also a humorous reference in that Thunderbirds episode (Lord Parker’s ‘Oliday) where Scott, Virgil and Brains are returning home from a rescue mission that occurred in Italy and they contact Jeff, stating; “we’ll be home for breakfast” and Jeff’s like “breakfast? It’s 2am” and they point out that they got the times in the different locations mixed up. And who can possibly forget that Simpsons one (Bart Vs Australia) where they arrive in Aussie and Homer asks Lisa what time it is there. Because of the different times in each country, they don’t all commence with the same season, which explains why China celebrates their New Year later in January.
And speaking of the Chinese New Year, here’s where
I first heard about it. I was eight and at elementary school when our teacher told us all about the tradition. She also read a story about the origin of the celebration. The story began where 12 animals; a dog, dragon, hare, horse, monkey, ox, pig, ram, rat, rooster, snake and tiger, were squabbling over which one was the best animal and which one would win some prize for best animal or something. So in an attempt to cease them from bickering, a Chinese emperor arranged for a swimming race across the river. Whoever won got the prize. The animals agreed and the race commenced. During the race, the ox was in the lead and the rat was struggling to swim. So it cheated and climbed on the ox’s back, thus taking the lead. The rat won the race and got the prize and these are the rest of the finishing positions starting with the 2nd place; ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Since the story, each year has represented an animal. If a year was the year of the rat, the next one would be the year of the ox, then the tiger and so on. After the year of the pig, it goes back to the start. I was born in 1990, which was the year of the horse. I didn’t know that until I was eight. I was pretty disappointed when I found that out. I’ve got nothing against horses whatsoever or any other animal, except wasps (I have a history). But at the time, I was more into the more vicious animals. I had hoped to be born in the year of the dragon or tiger or the rat as it won the race. But then, one can’t choose when to be born. It all depends when your mother’s pregnant. Being born in the year of the horse doesn’t seem bad though. Personally it makes me feel stronger, considering you can ride on it and take power over people not riding on horses. Maybe it’s the medieval movies I watched in my life.
Last year, 2016(!), was the year of the monkey, which means that 2017 is the year of the rooster.
Happy Chinese New Year everybody!

My thoughts on Hallowe’en

It’s that time of year, the 31st October that is; Halloween, also known as Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, which is celebrated in a majority of countries.
Halloween originated apparently with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people lit bonfires and dressed up to ward off roaming ghosts. During the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints and martyrs, hence All Saints Day. In other words, some people would use the tradition to pay their respects to the deceased. The term ‘Halloween’ didn’t originate until the mid-18th century and is of Christian origin. It refers to ‘hallowed evening’ or ‘holy evening’. Those would probably explain why Halloween takes place a day before All Saints Day.
As of today, Halloween remains a popular vacation and I have to say; I’m most certainly one of them guys who celebrates Halloween. I’d probably be over-estimating if I was to say it’s as popular as, say, Christmas. Mind you, it does take place a couple of months before Christmas which could be why people start over-thinking about Christmas days before Halloween comes and personally, that irritates me, because for one thing, Christmas ain’t come yet, duh(!) and for another thing, people like myself are trying to think about Halloween. I also say the same thing about Guy Fawkes Night.
Anyway, enough of my moaning. Halloween is celebrated in a variety of ways. As a kid, I mostly celebrated it by what we call trick-or-treating. Basically, I would dress in a costume, go round the streets with a group of friends and knock on doors, then call “trick or treat”. The resident(s) would then give us some candy. Some trick-or-treaters would egg houses, but myself and the others never thought of that. Of course, trick-or-treating is more of a kids’ activity. Other activities include parties, carving pumpkins and lighting them, apple bobbing, telling haunting stories and watching horror films. These could be celebrated by any age really. And yes, also plain dressing up. Most Halloweens, I remember dressing up as a vampire. This year, I dressed as David Bowie as his character in the music videos to Blackstar and Lazarus. I was going to dress up as the Penguin (one of Batman’s enemies), but I was still struggling to get over losing one of my true heroes. Ziggy Stardust or Jareth from Labyrinth were also options, but I thought I’d keep it more simple. Some of my family don’t seem to celebrate the vacation as much as I do and they used to. I remember when my dad once dressed up as Herman Munster from the Munsters. But then, I’m living in Britain and Halloween has been known to be an American vacation. Some Brits have pointed that out and don’t understand the point of celebrating it as a result. But I see no reason why I have to avoid it, just because it happens to be mainly associated with America. Of course not everybody celebrates Halloween. I have no problem with that.
Speaking of horror films and the media, we get plenty of those films suitable for celebrating Halloween, such as John Carpenter’s Halloween. Recently I was watching Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, an animated feature update of his famous short from 1984 and gee it was awesome! Other horror films I watched this month include Daddy’s Deadly Darling (aka Pigs), two of Roger Corman’s films (The Raven and The Little Shop Of Horrors) and Saw. It’s also amazing how very few TV shows contain Halloween specials. These include The Simpsons (with most of its episodes labelled Treehouse Of Horror and boy such classics they are!) and Psychoville (which had one Halloween special). And yet, there are fewer Halloween specials than there are Christmas specials (sorry to bring that up again). But it doesn’t mean that some TV episodes can’t be set during Halloween, just because they’re not called specials. There’s that Malcolm In The Middle episode, Halloween Approximately, where the boys have their older brother arrive a week late for the vacation, but still celebrate it. There’s South Park (Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery), My Family (Friday the 31st) and that pilot episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. Then you have TV shows which relate to the horror genre as a whole. Many episodes of shows such as The X-Files, The Munsters and The Addams Family could be viewed in celebration to Halloween.
On the subject of ghosts, personally I don’t believe in ghosts. I once had a conversation with one of my work colleagues about the time during 1998 when a ‘ghost’ happened to be spotted in Belgrave Hall in Leicester, where I reside. I’m kinda like Dana Scully from The X-Files in a way and believe there must be some logical explanation; I mean it could be a white cloth of some sort or a bed sheet. That would certainly make a great X-Files episode.

Happy Halloween everybody!

Originality – Where Has It Gone?

Do you ever feel that certain film-makers/production companies are running out of ideas and turning to nothing but remakes? Well I certainly do sometimes. There’s one particular film company which I feel is totally losing originality – Walt Disney Pictures.

Walt Disney Pictures, in my opinion, is one of the greatest production companies of all time. It’s most certainly popular among film fans worldwide and has produced some of the finest films the industry has to offer; Pinocchio, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Up, etc. Yet it did bring out some bad films as well. These include The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, Bolt, James & The Giant Peach, Fun & Fancy Free. However in recent years, Disney has seemed to run out of ideas for new films, hence turning animated features into live-action films. Though they would come up with an original project now and then i.e. Into the Woods, which I have yet to see. But all I hear about is live-action remakes to cartoons.

The first live-action animated feature Disney released was an adaptation to 1961’s 101 Dalmatians which came out in 1996. That film was okay. There was some originality to it; the dogs did not speak, the casting was impressive, though I wish the producers didn’t have to make an excuse to add an unnecessary fart joke. Then there was the sequel 102 Dalmatians which I haven’t seen, but oh well. Then I hear Tim Burton has directed a live-action sequel to Alice In Wonderland for the company; an obvious reference to the 1951 film. I saw it and it sucked! Last year, we saw the release of Maleficent; obvious spin-off to Sleeping Beauty and this year, a live-action version of 1950’s Cinderella. The two latters, I did not see and didn’t feel I needed to. I saw Doug Walker’s review of Maleficent and I don’t blame him for expressing his negativity. I didn’t think it would be that good anyway.

But now I hear that Disney is extending their resume on live-action cartoons; The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Beauty & The Beast, Mulan, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, the latter which I couldn’t care less about, because I never enjoyed the film anyway. But what really gets to me is that another film they plan to live-actionize is my all-time favourite one of them all. Yes folks, it’s Pinocchio. I’ve loved that film ever since childhood, so to see a live-action version of the film sickens me. There is no way one of them could compete with the animated masterpiece. Pinocchio is like the symbol to awareness of all aspects of evil around the world. To me, it was an awesome way to demonstrate that people can sometimes scam you into things, as I once stated in one of my previous blogs (The Worst-to-Best Movies Produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios). A live-action version will be an obvious repeat. God knows what Dickie Jones would think if he was still around.

I mean, what’s going to be next? What other cartoons could Disney possibly live-actionize? The Sword In The Stone? Atlantis: The Lost Empire? The Emperor’s New Groove? To tell you the truth, I should like to see Disney try and live-actionize The Lion King and Robin Hood. In case you probably couldn’t tell, I was being sarcastic.

I do have yet to see Maleficent and the live-action version of Cinderella, so I can’t say whether they’re good or bad until I’ve seen them. I was reluctant to watch them when they came out. First of all, those two sorts of things are usually aimed for a female audience and I’m not female. Second, the reluctance relates back to when I saw Tim Burton’s version of Alice In Wonderland and I predicted I would get the same cheap result from the films. The fact that I did not enjoy any of the Despicable Me movies certainly put me off seeing Minions. Plus, the fact that now Disney is turning to remakes of their own material; the films that most of us grew up with. Some of those films are among the ones I want my future children to grow up with and I wonder what impact the remakes are going to have on today’s kids. For instance; if Pinocchio‘s going to be ‘live-actionised’, are children going to think about the remake, each time they think of the title, and ignore the original? This, I personally find disturbing. I don’t mind remakes as long as they’re good ones, but that seems to be all that Disney’s doing now. Some of my friends are giving up on Disney as a result, and for that I don’t blame them.

On the recent news that I hear Tim Burton is to direct a remake of Mary Poppins for, you guessed it, Disney;

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Okay, this is the very last straw. Disney have overstepped the mark. I’m never watching a new Disney movie again.

I just feel as betrayed as certain fans of the company do. Disney, I ain’t angry, but I’m very disappointed. They produced some of the best quality work in history and now they’ve clearly run out of ideas.

A Roller-Coaster through The Alton-Rations

What’s happening to British theme parks nowadays? I ain’t saying they suck, because they don’t. Theme parks in general are always great fun. But there’s some pretty lame sections added to them. For example, I know now it has occurred last year, but I had recently heard that Alton Towers has introduced CBeebies Land. What? A section whose theme is based on a god-awful British TV channel which broadcasts god-awful TV programmes? Programmes with unoriginal and forgettable episodes?

Guys, think of the wide audiences. If you want to introduce something to all ages, why not include a Disney-themed part or something? Oh wait, there’s already numerous Disney Lands across the globe. I so would like to check at least one of them out. Or what about a section with a theme that links to Steven Spielberg’s movies? Oh wait, there’s already a Universal Studios-related theme park in America. But there’s plenty of other things to think about.

It was bad enough when the long defunct American Adventure had its most exciting rides, i.e. The Missile and the Twin Loop-De-Loop, closed down to make way for more kiddie rides. No wonder the theme park closed down eventually. Lack of audience figures can lead to a lowering business, equalling eventual extinction. Or what the time when one of the surprisingly oldest British parks, Drayton Manor, introduced Thomas Land. Yes folks, the section of the park whose theme is based on one of the lousiest and most overrated kids’ shows in TV history, need I say what it’s called? The one about the trains with large gobs, and that’s pretty much it, it’s about trains that can talk. As the Nostalgia Critic might say, (yawns) Adventure ho. Though technically, it was based on a series of novels, then got made into a show. I personally wouldn’t care, but it was. Okay, maybe the idea for Thomas Land was to get more younger children invested, but if you think about it, most of the general rides in Drayton Manor are amateur and rather lousy, exceptions including the Apocalypse, Shockwave and Flumes. But there are very few of those rides that still stand.

Now a couple of years ago, Alton Towers just had to introduce CBeebies-Land! This is the sort of thing which does not appeal to me whatsoever. I didn’t grow up with CBeebies. I was in my pre-teens when the channel was launched and I was way too old for the nonsense they broadcast. I am familiar with some of the shows they broadcast or used to broadcast i.e. Teletubbies, which I’ve long expressed my strong dislike within. Some of the shows were broadcast sometime before the channel’s launch. And yet, I’d be disturbed if certain rides were closed to make way for CBeebies-Land. I personally believe it was wrong to shut down the Corkscrew and the Submission, because they were epic! Plus the Corkscrew was apparently one of the very first rides in Alton Towers. If the manufacturers wanted to create some baby-themed section, why couldn’t they get rid of the Hex?

If there’s a section of a theme park with a theme based on Gerry Anderson’s shows, I would be up for it. Not only am I a long time fan of his works, but his productions are known to appeal to all ages. I’d say the same for a Hanna/Barbera themed-section or one based on Aardman or Nickelodeon. These producers/production companies are more likely to extend their audiences compared to CBeebies.

That’s my opinion anyway.

The Inspirations through my Origin in life

For most of my life, I have lived in Leicestershire, which is located in the East Midlands of England, Great Britain. My brother and myself were born in Montreal, Canada; at the time, my parents were working in Canada and I have descendants living there. They were both born in Britain and sometime during the mid-1980s after their wedding, they moved to Canada. This was the time when Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister and I personally don’t blame them for moving, because of the recession that occurred and Canada’s economy was finer then. Frankly, I never liked the Conservative party. I mainly support left-wing parties, because they stand for equality and are more ‘logical’ when it comes to economics.

Only a short amount of my early life was spent in Canada. As a result, I never got to experience much of the country. I was only nine and a half months old when we moved to Britain. This was because my grandparents were very ill at the time. Of course, they are all dead now. It is a shame, because I never knew them as much as I know my great-aunts and great-uncles.

Before my late-teens, I was quite uncertain what career I wanted. As a kid, some of my career choices varied. One dream job related to working on machines; I think it was those toy cars, trains and other vehicles that set me up and the times when I watched certain programmes such as Thunderbirds and Wallace & Gromit that I frequently viewed. Plus my dad has worked as an engineer for most of his life. One of the companies he worked for relates to aircraft manufactured by Rolls Royce.

Another dream job I had on mind was to join the police. One of the motivations was the range of police programmes I watched and because being a cop is quite physical (a bit like machine work and mechanics); it involves chasing any criminals who resist arrest (N.B. it does not always happen like that). Plus, I often passed by a few cops standing around the streets and they always seemed friendly.

But it wasn’t until I got my first guitar at the age of nine when I started to find music tempting. I began to write a few songs, but eventually, and as I was in the middle of studying an A-Level Film Studies course, I became pessimistic and knew that I would not become a musician. During my teens, I regularly saw some of my friends perform in bands. Yet, I found it hard to form one myself. As I became more interested in film, I gave up looking for work as a musician. I did take a music course, but this occurred after completing my A-Levels and I knew it was too late to cancel my application. The only reason why I took the course was because I failed AS-Level Performing Arts and I was rather annoyed about it at the time and to be honest, vengeful. So after my second and final year as an A-Level student, I tried the music course, but I eventually lost interest. A. the music course was only a BTEC 1st Diploma and none of the staff cared about my A-Levels, and B. I owed so much to my Film Studies course, that I became more serious on film-making and less on music. I still have a passion in music, but not as huge as in film-making. I continued to play my guitar and bass and harmonica and I continued to write my own songs, which I hope to share to the public in the future.

During my years in-between middle and high school, I was quite uncertain what I wanted to do in regards to a future career. From my A-Level Film Studies years onwards, I decided that my top dream job was to work in the film industry and produce films. Before I studied the subject, I had watched and obtained a knowledge on a wide range of films, which I knew would prove useful to my studies and sometime before the course’s completion, I knew I barely struggled with the situation and thought of various ideas for new features. I received a D grade in the end and that counted as a pass for an A-Level. During my struggles with the music course, I wrote my first script for a feature film, which I called Amen; a horror/mystery thriller based on an obnoxious vicar who replaces a recently murdered vicar and causes suspicion around the village.

The next year, I enrolled at another college (South Leicestershire) to study OCR National Diploma In Media. I felt more comfortable with the course, but there was one concern. I was only interested in the visual aspects of media; and television, mainly film. I felt the course covered too many aspects of media and I had no interest in radio or magazine publishing. I always viewed celebrity gossip as a self-centered topic and quotes such as “look at me , I got the looks” and “she’s so dirty” annoy me so much. No, film was always my kind of media. This is why I label UK Film Studies (Unit 23) as my favorite module of the course. I wanted to learn more about that aspect of media, so to extend my knowledge and grades, I moved on to The University Of Northampton to study a Higher National Diploma in Digital Film Making.

I felt much happier with HND Digital Film Making, because it was the most focused on film since Film Studies and provided a lot of info that was not covered in my previous studies. The course lasted for two years, so after graduation, I stayed in Northampton for another year to commence a ‘top-up’ application as a continuation to the course; this means that I ‘topped-up’ the HND and studied a final year period for a Bachelor Arts course; Media Production, which also signaled my final year in education. The course wasn’t as good as the HND; for one module, I had to create a viral, which is a bit like an advert, and I didn’t receive enough lectures based on what a viral is. Plus, when I studied the HND, we could create whatever film we wanted. However, my education extended and I am proud to have received decent grades including a 2.1 degree.

The affect Aspergers had on my life

This is a topic that I very rarely discuss in life. It is about a certain condition which relates to certain difficulties. It is quite a sensitive topic, because X% of the world, including myself, obtain the condition. This is known as Asperger’s, a mild relation to autism. This had quite a large effect on my life. I didn’t know I had it until my teens, when I asked my parents about why I’ve been involved in certain events.

At various schools, I was involved in a unit known as ‘Speech & Language’, in which the teachers are also learning supporters. This would make sense. But my school life was pretty over limiting. For example, I had made plenty of friends at school and because I lived too ridiculously far away, there was always transportation arranged for special needs. This meant that there were always strict schedules and I never got much time to hang around with mates after school or goof off in the nearby villages.

I went to two primary schools; the first one was Barley Croft in Beaumont Leys, Leicestershire, which I do not obtain much memory of or remember many people from. What I remember was that we were always in the same classroom and we never got to know many of the non S&L students. Actually there was one event, whilst at this school, I particularly remember; Michael Wilson, also known as Cobra from Gladiators (that’s a UK based TV entertainment programme), once came to give a speech at the school. The speech was epic, though I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I still own a photograph of him with his signature. But apart from that, I don’t remember much about the school, with the exception of that event.

The second school I attended was Glenfield, which I liked better; I got to experience more classrooms. As a Year 4 student, I was in a mainstream English/Maths. This was repeated when I was in Year 6, but added to that, each Monday and Tuesday afternoon saw my sessions with a mainstream Year 6 class. Unfortunately there were still some limitations, i.e. the transport to/from school and I felt different from the other students in my classroom; some of them would act obnoxiously and I attempted not to have anything to do with it.

When I moved onto Stonehill High School, my middle school which was based in Birstall, this demonstrated a definite interaction with the mainstream students; this occurred during many of the lessons I had. However I felt that the S&L faculty was overprotective of those with learning difficulties. For instance, we were told that we could only go outside during break-times if there was somebody to accompany us. I would say that is rather extreme, because there were times when it was a beautiful day and I wanted to receive fresh air and because the area was the S&L centre and it was quite a small and crammed area. Luckily, I did find people to go and play outside with at times and I found this more fun, but this didn’t always happen.

Longslade, which has always been my favourite school, demonstrated my increased freedom. I interacted with the students better, no matter their conditions. At times, anybody could go out to the local village, but only at break-times (also know as recess) and, if you were a sixth form student, during free periods. I still had special needs transport arranged before the start and at the end of school times. Plus, I had what you call ‘life skills’ lessons. These were my least favourite subjects; the reason was because there were particular topics covered that I felt I already learned as an elementary school student, i.e. 12-hour clocks, problems demonstrated via pictures, etc. Plus I felt like I was missing out on more exciting stuff; originally I had picked to study Geography as a humanities subject, but then I was told I had to do life skills. It was a shame, because I would’ve learned about various cultures around the world. I couldn’t study Religious Education either for the same reason. However I feel that I have achieved plenty of independence and responsibility. This is one of the reasons why I owe so much to Longslade and describe it as my favourite school. I owed so much to the school I once attended an event which celebrated fifty years of its origin. If there was one example of independence I gained, that would be a field trip in Saltzburg, Austria, that I attended; the occasion was to take skiing lessons.

After completing A-Levels, I attended two colleges and hoped that I would feel more independent and forget about my Asperger’s. But it could not be escaped; for each lecture, I had a support assistant sit near me to take notes and I remain grateful that they were only attempting to help my understanding of each topic, but sometimes I found it embarrassing and slightly distracting; sometimes I would jot certain notes down while taking in what the lecturer said and the support assistant would tell me not to write something down and as a result, I would lose my place. Luckily, when I attended university, this did not happen. I was happier, because I wanted to experience lectures without the help of special needs. This equalled independence and fewer distractions from certain things.

So throughout the years, despite my condition, I have experienced friendships with various people, not just those who are autistic. I had very few enemies, but that’s part of life. I try not to let my condition get into my way, but there are times when people keep bringing it up, which leads to the result of not being able to escape from it. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this, but there are people who refer to people with Asperger’s as ‘retards’ (I’m sorry I had to say that), but I am strong and there is the old saying that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones’. Added to that, names cannot hurt me. There were times when I was prone to lose my temper whenever I was provoked, but I have gotten over it.

After all, those with Asperger’s have made a valid contribution to society. Apparently, even numerous celebrities contain Asperger’s . These include;

• Albert Einstein

• Gary Numan – the synth-pop musician

• Dan Ackroyd – film actor whose works include The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Ghostbusters

• Woody Allen – jazz musician and film director; one of his films being Sleeper. Apparently he prefers showers with plug-holes in the corner rather than the middle

• Steven Spielberg(?) – my personal favourite film director of all time. It is hinted that he does/did haveAsperger’s .

And yet, all these people have achieved huge successes in life, so one cannot automatically assume that all the autistic are ‘retarded’. Retarded means backward in mental or physical development. Asperger’s is just a mild learning difficulty, so there is a huge difference.